The federal health care law will essentially push independent physicians into conglomerate networks or out of business, a group of doctors told N.C. Rep. Sue Myrick Tuesday afternoon, Oct. 12, at the Northcross business park in Huntersville.
After a brief introduction, Myrick opened the floor for the doctors, members of the Independent Physicians of the Carolinas, to share their concerns about the current state of health care and the potential problems with the law or to ask questions about her opinions of it.
“I think it’s important that we have a discussion to see who has what suggestions as to what the best thing is to do and why,” said Myrick.
Although the conversations were initially focused on how the federal law affects the patients, discussion quickly turned to the overall picture: that the system forces independent doctors to pay more for necessities like malpractice insurance—more than doctors do in a hospital or in a network—while earning less money.
“What I see in the future for the independents is there won’t be any,” said Dr. Chinyere Anyaogu, of the Women’s Care Center in Huntersville.
“There’s nothing wrong with working for a larger institution. I think that for many doctors, the main issue is not the money; the issue is the choice to be able to practice the way they want.”
Myrick said that part of the problem with the law is that a large portion of doctors were not included in the discussions to draft it, a small percentage of doctors are actually a part of the medical association.
“The AMA does not speak for the majority of the doctors in this country,” Myrick said. “Yet they get all this attention and they were involved in the health care negotiations even though a lot of us weren’t.”
A concern that kept bubbling up was that some of the law’s requirements may strongly favor medical conglomerates. In addition to rising costs of independent practices, the law raises patient copays, which often forces them into hospitals rather than independent clinics.
“It seems like the health-care reforms are going to force independent providers to go into institutions,” said Sherie Bradshaw, board secretary for the physicians’ organization.
“That’s why we started this organization, because we don’t have the resources (the big organizations) do. We’re going to try to come together as independent businesses to work together,” Bradshaw said.
Under the new law, doctors would not be allowed to perform some tests in their own offices.
“There has been concern that some physicians are starting to have machinery to do tests in their office instead of referring patients out,” Myrick said, and there is fear that doctors are providing these tests in-house to be able to charge for unnecessary tests.
“That’s how we perform better health care in the office, by being able to do these diagnostic tests while the patient is there—not sending them to the hospital, which is going to cost four or five times more,” said Colleen Dey, chairman of the doctor’s organization.
“If there is a change in congress this year, that health care law will be changed because the way it’s structured right now it will not save money. That was the whole idea, to bring the cost down for individuals and it isn’t doing that.”
Cost to doctors is a major issue, too, though.
“I would bet you that there are 10 or 20 or 30 more doctors who would have been here but they can’t because they can’t afford to close their office and come here and voice their points,” Anyaogu said.
Myrick said that after the election season is over, she wants to try to pull a group together to seriously discuss changes to the law.
“I support actually trying to repeal it and starting over and doing reform,” Myrick said. “I support keeping your children on your insurance until they’re 26, and I support no preexisting conditions and those things. I also support medical liability reform, because that is important in the big picture.”
Getting the law totally repealed would be a difficult task for the next congress, as it takes a two-thirds vote to override a presidential veto.
Nevertheless the doctors were happy with Myrick’s outreach.
“I think she’s very interested in the problems that we’re going through and what’s going on with health care, and I’m very impressed by her sensitivity,” said Chinyere Anyaogu.
Myrick decided to meet with the independent doctors because she said she could see that their voices weren’t being heard.
“I think that Congresswoman Sue Myrick feels that there should be options for communities to choose independents or hospitals,” Bradshaw said.